Tools for Web Designers: H&FJ Webfonts

Hoefler & Frere-Jones launched their Cloud Typography service recently. Here's a run-down.

By YJ Tso
July 5, 2013
Tools for Web Designers: H&FJ Webfonts

Cloud Typography

Leave it to Hoefler & Frere-Jones to come up with an upscale moniker for webfonts. Although the name says it all, does the new service walk the walk?

Well, after years of waiting for H&FJ fonts to become available for web use, this geek couldn't wait any longer to find out. Here's a quick run-down of their offering. Short on time? Just go sign up. (No affiliation.)


Perhaps a bit tasteless to lead with pricing when discussing a premium-positioned product, but I'm spillin' the beans: it's $99/year (twice as much as Typekit) with 5 free included webfont "packages". What does that mean? Basically you get 5 of H&FJ's font families - in certain styles "packaged" together - included with your subscription. But choose wisely: once they're gone, you have to purchase any additional packages that you want to use.

Multipurpose vs ScreenSmart

To make matters slightly more confusing, the packages are also separated into two categories. Multipurpose fonts were oringally designed for print, although the service enables you to use them for web. ScreenSmart fonts are "completely reimagined for the screen". I'm trying out the ScreenSmart version of Ideal Sans here. First impressions are...well, impressive.

Making It Work

I think they've done a pretty good job of implementing this thing. Instead of including a javascript call like Typekit for example, "cloud.typography" (what the cool cats are calling it) gives you a special CSS link - a "key". You get a unique key per "project". A project is simply a collection of different packages/fonts that you wish to use together. There is a limit of 10 projects, but here's the good part: you can allow an unlimited number of domains to access any given project via the CSS key! The account as a whole has a bandwidth restriction based on total monthly pageviews - 250,000 for the $99/year plan.

There's a development mode and a production mode. I won't go into the details here, but when you're ready to go Live with your project, you download a package to install on the server of your choice, and the fonts are served from there. The CSS key remains the same - the requests to the fonts are routed through their "delivery agent". So going Live is a cinch, really, and subjectively it seems the fonts are delivered faster than via Typekit. No offence, Adobe.

Maybe there's a lesson here too. Hoefler & Frere-Jones held out against what must have been significant pressure to jump onboard one of the earlier webfont endeavours. In the end though, this offering is much more aligned with the brand, and there's some special sauce in there too. I'm happy to have it in my toolkit.